Viva la Vida
Called: The Leaden Mirror, the Ashen Court, the Court of Fear
The curse is a gift. Not one member of the Autumn Court is glad of her abduction and enslavement. But since they were taken, they were changed and they can’t go back, they can damn well take advantage of those changes. They know that the gramarye of the Fae doesn’t have to be terrifyingly beautiful and gloriously torturous. It can be simply wondrous, too. Though all changelings use magic, the Leaden Mirror walks on the cutting edge of Wyrd.
Clay Ariel founded the Court of Fear. She had natural hands before she was taken, but when she returned, they were artificial. Only soft clay, she had to be careful not to damage them. Ariel took this as a lesson, and her toys and weapons of clay were well-known. None living today know what influence Clay Ariel exerted on the season of Autumn, but legend states that she went off without any armament but a wry smile. She ruled as the first Autumn Queen for long years after forging her Court’s pact.
The Autumn Court survives by turning the weapons of the Fae against them. These weapons are the pacts and Contracts made between Faerie and the various aspects of Earth. Many Court members also justify their experiences as slaves by bringing magic to Earth. This is the opportunity to enrich their world with breathtaking wonder, and they’ve already paid the monstrous cost. Autumn courtiers are the most likely to seek out trods and other places of power, because that is where there is more to learn. Every Contract is another sword to wield, another shield between her and the Fae and another rainbow cast by the otherwise lonely rain.
This Court encourages subtler solutions to problems that face fae society. Clay Ariel didn’t charge off to wrestle the season for her pact, and Autumn Court members rarely try to match their enemies eye to eye and fist to fist. One would much rather lead a foe into a trap or trick an opponent into attacking the wrong target — minimum force for the maximum result. To a degree, it’s just efficiency. It lets the changeling spend as little effort as possible and get back to other things. But it’s also common sense, honed by fear: When you’re fighting with your enemies’ weapons and don’t know exactly how they work, you use them as little as possible.
So the Court tracks down and investigates any potential source of Wyrd knowledge. A member of this Court is much more likely than most to ask other changelings about what they remember of Faerie. When that fails, they ransack their own memories for new revelations, sometimes resorting to hypnotism or thiopental sodium. Autumn courtiers also travel more than most changelings, exploring places of fae significance. Every little bit helps.
Autumn Court members often explore the Hedge, seeking a glimpse of Arcadia’s wonder. Others explore the limits of known pacts and their interactions with each other — some take a very scientific approach to such things, while others refuse to explain magic with reason. Daring Ashen courtiers try to effect new pacts, expanding the breadth of changeling magic and developing Contracts that the Fae could not match. (The occasional assertion that all Court founders would have been members of the Autumn Court today is always laughed down.)
Not every source of power the Lost try to use is Wyrd. There is more to the supernatural than just the Fae, and the Autumn Court knows that better than most. Its members explore — carefully, cautiously, with great (and very reasonable) reservation — the worlds of werewolves, mages and other supernatural creatures. One never knows where one might find an ally. Or a new weapon.
Every member of the Ashen Court has a little voice that misses magical Arcadia and desperately wants to go back. Maybe that voice was placed by the Fae, maybe it’s natural, but it’s there either way. This is just one reason of many a changeling may join the Autumn Court, and it’s often not the greatest. Many changelings quite simply want to hurt their captors and see their magical capabilities as the best way of doing so. Others become enamored with the irony of fighting the Fae with the magic of Faerie.
The best prospective members of the Court are creative and inquisitive, but in the end, they are also in love with magic. There are creative ways to make war without magic, and there are questions one can ask that only concern earthly subjects. Changelings join this Court because they want to change the world obliquely by pushing through dimensions of trust and poetry that most people ignore. All eventually deal with the conflict of surrounding themselves with what the strove so long to escape, but it often takes some time.
Courtiers of Autumn seek alternative solutions to surmount their obstacles. A member would rather sweep the legs out from an opponent than push him over, and luring him onto a patch of ice is more attractive than either. One might spread a rumor to draw out the Fae instead of planting real bait to attract them. Either way, changelings attracted to this Court generally lean away from the most direct path. Unless, of course, it’s the best.
Though all members of the Court involve themselves with magic, many specialize in certain fields and expand their mastery of other disciplines. Even those who relegate the study of magic to secondary importance apply the Autumn Court’s method of problem solving to the rest of their lives. The businessman who outsourced before outsourcing became “cool,” the scientist who gives outlandish theories a chance and the teacher who neatly sidesteps the principal’s wrath are all people who could join the Autumn Court.
Most Autumn Courts require a potential member to share some secret of Wyrd lore that they do not already know. Acceptable secrets are often just foggy tidbits that a changeling remembers from her time in Faerie. Some fae make such things up, but a secret that does not ring true is quickly weeded out. On the other hand, the ability to falsify tales of Fae magic and fool others is a valuable creativity, and may be respected. Other changelings demonstrate Contracts not commonly known in the area or to the Court.
But magic has a price. Changelings who practice too carelessly find themselves growing apart from Earth again. Worse, some of them don’t realize how much of their humanity they are giving up for their gramarye. The wise among them accept the costs they cannot avoid, and the Court serves to help the Lost without that strength. Others simply don’t care or don’t think of it, exulting in magic for magic’s sake and damning the (or ignoring) consequences.
The rituals of the Autumn Court are not as colorful or outlandish as some of the other Courts’. The annual Fallen Fair is common in many regions. Each year, members of the Court and esteemed guests from other Courts gather to show off their discoveries in the realm of the supernatural. Changelings demonstrate their advanced aptitudes with well-known Contracts, display newfound tokens and share their unique pacts (if any). There is a full docket of lectures on all manner of magical topics. The Fallen Fair is also an unofficial opportunity to barter magical tools and services.
Many Autumn Courts sponsor a hunt, called the Hunt of Leaves, the Ash Run and other names. This is a lethal hunt that welcomes all interested changelings, in which the fae ride (or run, or drive) down and kill their enemies. Topping this list are the True Fae, but the hunt also targets loyalist changelings, leftover dream-things, and sometimes fetches. The Court bears the expense and effort, arranging necessary weapons or concealments from human society. All the other Courts need to provide are warm, willing bodies. Of course, the Autumn Court has the first claim on bounty, especially magical, from the hunt.
The hunt gets most of its participants from the Autumn and Summer Courts, but a healthy smattering of the other changelings (including Courtless) always participate. Whatever their reasons, most relish an opportunity to make the enemy run scared, if only for an evening or two.
ome Courts mimic the scientific community’s approach to magic to a larger degree. They fund lectures by members of other Autumn Courts, arranging travel and accommodations and occasionally providing an honorarium. Some also publish journals containing their members’ monographs. Such a work is generally on the scope of an indie ’zine (and is taken as such by mortals who happen upon one).
The Leaden Mirror is oblique in its symbolism. The colors of the Court are those of Autumn: The red, yellow, and orange of dying leaves, mixed with the gray of a overcast sky or the brown of a bare tree. Symbols commonly used with the Autumn Court include fallen leaves and branches, wilting grass, falling raindrops, lightning, rising smoke, sheaves of wheat, bushels of harvested fruit, an owl, a raven and crow, a vulture, a blowfish, a snake, a spider, a bed, a vintage automobile, an eyeglass, looking glass or a magnifying glass, a book, a rowan wand and a candle burning down, among others.
The Mantle of the Autumn Court is more overtly sorcerous than the others. It has mystical overtones — sparkles of light, occult characters, queer musical tones or other indicators — in addition to the normal seasonal nature. At Mantle 1 to 3, a character’s seeming displays the occasional dead leaf on the wind (moreso during the height of the season), lit candles or the vines of harvest-time plants. At Mantle 4+, the seeming shows those with more frequency and occasionally appears to kill nearby plants with frost, or at least make them wither. People who can perceive the seeming also feel occasional chills, not usually associated with temperature. Members of the Ashen Court have an affinity for the magic of the fae.
Mantle 1 provides a character two bonus dice on any Contract activation roll that uses Occult. As the character ties herself more strongly to the Court, she develops an affinity for the Fae. At Mantle 3, she adds one die to Empathy and Investigation rolls dealing with True Fae or Faerie. The greatest members of the Court benefit from an instinctive understanding of magic. At Mantle 5, they may re-roll any failed Occult roll dealing with magic (but not activating a power, such as a Contract or pledge). The results of the second roll stand.
Autumn Court members deal with fear on two basic levels. They evoke the emotion in others, and they explore their own fear. Cultivating fear in communities is easy, but not always desirable, moral or safe. A changeling may spread word in a neighborhood about the sex offender who moved in next door, but if the rumor leads back to him (assuming it’s false), there will be consequences. Likewise, one can lower the perceived safety of people who live in the area by staging muggings or calling the police with lies about drug deals or shootings. This can also backfire, as such “prophecies” tend to be self-fulfilling. The cold war was a good time for the Autumn Court, as the threat of nuclear war loomed large, and some skeptically note that fear will always be good business for human society as well as the Leaden Mirror.
Children are a valuable source of fear for Autumn courtiers. Children are less skeptical than adults, and emotionally more pure, so many members of the Court hone the skill of telling scary stories or arranging frightening performances. Spreading local legends about “that house” or “old man Withers” is common. Some create the yard where kids never venture to get a lost ball. Creating truly frightening haunted houses during Halloween is a tradition few pass up.
On the surface, members of the Court know why they’re afraid. Their period of forced servitude in Faerie is still terrifying to them. What’s important is how they relate to that fear. An Ashen courtier tries to be aware of her fears, whether a frightening moment (an imminent car crash) or an abiding terror (the Others, naturally, but also more mundane things like spiders or losing an honored position).
Knowledge of the emotion and of the fae’s self is the key; Court of Fear members put little stock on conquering their fears, which they consider an unhelpful goal, and more on learning how to use those fears. They try to wisely excuse themselves from projects in which they will be nervous and unhelpful, and they examine when to work with their fright to surpass their normal limits.
Members of this Court are also known for their ability to understand other’s fears, and their aptitude for wielding that knowledge with great efficacy.